Dragon Ball New Age – Volume 1 is a fan manga by an American artist.
How does it compare to Akira Toriyama’s masterpiece?
It’s available in print exclusively on Amazon for $5.99.
What is Dragon Ball New Age?
Dragon Ball New Age is a fan manga created by the artist known as Malik.
Malik has been writing the manga since 2001 when he became inspired by Dragon Ball Z to create his own story.
New Age has a big following, with readers in over 120 countries and translations into 9 languages. You can read more about its history on this wiki page and receive updates on the official Facebook page.
To my knowledge, Dragon Ball New Age is the first Dragon Ball fan manga to be published in print and in English outside of Japan.
Most artists just publish their work online, but Malik went through the difficult process of learning how to edit and format his work for publication through Amazon Create Space. And I helped a bit with that, so he gave me a special thanks in the front!
This is the first volume of his manga that has been published in print. It contains 4 chapters of the serialized story, plus 2 bonus chapters, with one of them featuring Gokū’s mother, Gine!
He’s already created 33 chapters in the story, so we have more volumes in print to look forward to.
Now let’s begin the review.
The Toriyama Standard
Some fans consider Toriyama to be a living god of manga authors, and he’s up there with Osamu Tezuka in fame and quality of work.
Toriyama’s art is beautiful and his writing is exciting and funny. He’s hard to beat.
That’s why I’m going to use the standard of Toriyama’s work to judge this book.
Is it fair to compare any fan manga to the work of Akira Toriyama?
I say yes, because this is what Dragon Ball Z fans want more of, so if you don’t use the original work as the standard, and you just say, “Oh, it’s a fan manga, so it’s not the same,” then I think you’re discrediting the hard work of both the artist’s in question.
Especially if the fan artist tries to draw art that looks like Toriyama’s and write a story that feels like the original.
That’s what Malik attempts to do here, so that’s the standard I’m using.
Let’s put on our Scouters and scan its power level.
The art of Dragon Ball New Age is beautiful.
Malik does a great job of emulating Toriyama’s style and capturing the feel of the characters. From their muscular bodies to the facial expressions and movements, it (almost) feels like you’re looking at Dragon Ball Z.
This isn’t easy to do. He’s obviously been so inspired by Toriyama’s art style that he made it his own.
My only complaint is that the backgrounds are sparse. Most of the panels have empty backgrounds or the battle grounds are in a wasteland.
The result is that the emphasis is on the characters’ upper bodies and faces, and not on environments. So if you’re not already familiar with the Dragon World, you may be left wanting more or wondering where these characters are in relation to their surroundings.
Toriyama did the same thing on occasion, so I can’t fault Malik too much, but I’d like to see more detail there.
The other thing is that the energy and spirit is a little different. It looks like Toriyama’s art, but doesn’t feel 100% like his art. You know what I mean? That ‘Dragon Ball energy’ that you get when reading it?
Even so, it’s close. And in the times that the energy does come through, it’s a thrill!
Overall the art has simple, clean lines, and beautiful illustrations. It’s enjoyable to look at and the action is intense.
Which brings me to the writing.
It takes skill to write something exciting. It takes skill to write something funny. But it takes a genius level of talent to write something that is both exciting and funny.
That’s what Toriyama did with Dragon Ball. Can Malik do the same?
Malik is a huge fan of the series, so he understands the Dragon World and knows these characters well. His extension of the Dragon Ball Z story is logical and well thought out.
The plot is straightforward, with a new bad guy landing on earth and causing a ruckus. So to make it interesting he uses the in-universe characters that you know and then adds new layers to their histories. Such as with the introduction of a new set of black dragon balls and a few mysteries you’ll be curious to discover.
The story takes place 3 years after the end of Dragon Ball GT, but with a twist. Malik takes some of the concepts established in GT that fans like, such as Super Saiyan 4, but then negates all of the problem areas. So if you like the ideas presented in GT but don’t like how they were executed in the anime, then you’re in for a treat.
The result is a familiar setting with familiar characters fighting new and exciting battles. And if you’re a fan of Dragon Ball Z, you’ll feel right at home.
Sounds great, right?
For the most part, it is. However, it’s not as fun to read as Toriyama’s Dragon Ball.
The original has jokes on almost every page, the action keeps moving forward, there’s little exposition, and it has a combination of light heartedness and suspense, with a feeling of, “What’s going to happen next?!”
Malik’s fan manga has the action part covered, and there are a couple jokes. But the initial set up of the plot is weighed down by a couple pages of exposition at the start. It’s a lot to take in at first, especially if you don’t know the original story.
I can understand the need to do this, as he has to explain how his story is different from Z or GT. But I think it would be more engaging to let the action speak for itself.
Consider that Toriyama’s beginning of the story is the middle of the story. He drops you into the middle of the action, with lives that are already active and a part of their worlds. Then they collide and interact. You don’t know what’s going on or who these people are, and you figure it out along the way. That’s what makes it so fun.
It’s tempting to put a lot of exposition up front, but I think it’s more interesting to not have those questions answered in the beginning, and to explain them as the plot develops across the chapters. Make the reader curious to know more.
Aside from this initial prologue, Malik does do a decent job of revealing bits of the plot amid the fights.
Though it’s still not as funny, and the emphasis is more on getting to the big fight.
To make a comparison to DBZ, I’d say it’s similar to the Namek arc.
It’s not about the comedy, it’s about the fighting. Though maybe that’s what you’re looking for.
That’s my only gripe, and it’s more of constructive criticism than a complaint.
But in my opinion it’s important, because it’s this charm that makes people want to read Dragon Ball again and again.
So there is untapped potential here, and it makes me excited to see how the story itself transforms in Volume 2.
What does the Scouter say about Dragon Ball New Age’s power level?
Art: 4.5 / 5
Writing: 3.5 / 5
Overall: 4 / 5
Dragon Ball New Age – Volume 1 is a successful tribute to Akira Toriyama’s masterpiece, an exciting continuation of the original story, and a worthwhile addition to your library.
You get 100 pages of beautiful illustrations and battles in your favorite world, for only $5.99.
If you’re looking for more Dragon Ball Z excitement, then you can’t go wrong with Dragon Ball New Age.